How cycling to work improves your health


People who are cycling to work are at greater risk of being seriously injured and taken to hospital, according to a research published yesterday.

This contributed to reports reporting that this is 50% more likely than non-cyclists for cyclists. Yet don’t get off the wheel-the study also shows that cycling’s overall safety benefits outweigh the injury risks substantially.

This adds to other indications that cycling is extremely useful, but people are reluctant to start. Of the 230,390 British passengers who took part in the latest survey, only 2,5% claimed that cycling was their main mode of travel.

So why wait people? A major worry is the danger of an accident–and I aren’t alone–as someone cycling to work for me. A UK government poll in 2015 found that 64% of people felt road riding was too risky.

The recent research, which analysed findings for ten years, has shown that such concerns are not unfounded–motorcycle switching entails an growing risk of hospital admission for accidents, whereby 7% of cyclists suffer such an illness, compared to 4.3% of non-cyclists. Squint a little and you can convert this into the above statistic of “50% more probable.”

Cycling to work
Cycling to work

Yet Paul Welsh, who led the research and is on his own, at the University of Glasgow in the UK, says the likelihood of bike injury death is low. The decreased death risk resulting from increased physical activity and lower BMI of cyclists is in fact substantially overweight. “To those capable of doing so, the numbers are still very much in support of cycling,” Welsh says.

Cyclists are at much greater risk than those in driving, taking public transport or going to work–a finding confirmed by these and previous experiments, for cardiovascular disease, cancer and death. They predict 15 less illnesses, 4 less heart attacks or a few more strokes, and 3 fewer deaths in that category if an additional 1.000 people take up cycling for 10 years.

Cycling is pumping our hands, says Anne Lusk, who did not participate in the research, at Harvard University. It takes more time than cycling–even though you balance on a bike you can need far more muscles than you need to keep up with your runs.

And don’t ignore the benefits of cycling for the environment. Releasing people from cars and buses eliminates air emissions and enhances the local climate.

Rather than discourage cycling, this study can be seen as reinforcing the need to better infrastructure for cyclists and to encourage more people to cycle. Don’t forget your helmet. Do not forget your helmet.

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